Monday, January 11, 2010

This is the church, and this is the fingerprint reader...


The one thing about my industry (biometrics) is that in some circles it is not very popular. Some people are convinced that if you give your fingerprint in a school lunch program, it will immediately be transmitted to the FBI, the CIA, the BBC, B.B. King, and Doris Day. However, I will grant that when you provide ANY information (fingerprint, password, social security number, address, whatever) to ANY provider, it's a good idea to know what the receiving group will do with the data.

But that's neither here nor there, because I really wanted to concentrate on something I read via this press release in findBIOMETRICS. Here are excerpts:

M2SYS Technology, an award-winning biometric technology research and development firm, announced today that Shelby Systems, a leading provider of financial and membership software tools for ministries and other faith-based organizations, has selected M2SYS fingerprint software and fingerprint readers for distribution to its customers.

I have never heard of Shelby Systems (website) - in fact, I don't have a lot of familiarity with the church software industry - but this is an interesting extension of biometrics into a new market. And how will Shelby Systems incorporate the M2SYS (website) technology into its product line?

Bio-Plugin™ is integrated into Shelby Systems' Arena™ software, a browser-based, enterprise church ministry system. Children checking in to youth ministries and activities will scan their fingers on an M2-EasyScan™ biometric fingerprint reader, improving process efficiencies for customers. With the addition of biometrics to Shelby Systems' v.5 church management software, parents and guardians will have greater peace-of-mind regarding the safety of their children.

But M2SYS would like to see additional uses. I'm not sure if Shelby Systems supports these yet:

"We are thrilled to provide this fingerprint recognition technology through our new relationship with M2SYS," said Frank Canady, president of Shelby Systems. "The integration with M2SYS is the latest example of how Shelby Systems strives to equip churches and other faith-based organizations with the best technology for improved security and streamlined operations. The biometrics solution will significantly benefit the check-in process for the ministries that we serve."

So we're not only talking about tracking minors, but also about tracking employees. And let's be honest - "buddy punching" (in which someone punches a timesheet on a time clock for someone else) can happen just as easily in a church environment as it can in a secular environment. This is one of the more popular applications of biometrics - if you have a biometrically-equipped time clock, then the employee physically has to be there to check in our out, which reduces the "buddy punch" problem significantly.

But the more interesting application - which can again be expanded to the secular realm - is to use the software to check children in an out of an activity.

Yet Ravi Das, who often comments on biometric news, expressed surprise that biometric software would appear in the church market:

I find it very interesting that an organization which offers software and other IT development services to such faith based organizations is offering Biometrics. The reason I say this is the type of society in which we live.

We happen to live in a society which can be deemed to be very conservative (or I guess how you exactly define conservative depends upon whom you to talk to). And to a certain degree, this is been an impedence to the acceptance of Biometrics in the United States.

There are often two over arching reasons cited why the public, at least here in the United States, is extremely hesitant to adopt Biometrics. One of course is the Privacy Rights issues linked with the Federal Government, and the other is the conservative way of thinking instilled by the church one attends.

In my view, Das is half correct in his statement. There are certainly churches in the United States that would resist fingerprinting, citing the Mark of the Beast and so forth. But there are a wide variety of political views in U.S. churches. For every church that worries about the New World Order, there are churches that are prepared to embrace the New World Order. Here's an old Red Stick Rant post that only slightly exaggerates how the Episcopal Church has adopted the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as liturgy.

And certainly for any church that needs a way to ensure that children are where they are supposed to be, a biometric solution is possibly worthy of consideration.

But it may be a tough market to crack.
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